Helping Students Learn to Learn: Simple Things that Teachers Can Do



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Helping Students Learn to Learn: Simple Things that Teachers Can Do

  • Angela Ho, EDC
  • Chan Chi Hung, Learning to Learn Project

Helping Students Learn to Learn:

  • What Do Your Students Need? What Do You Need?

Learning to Learn

  • What do your students NEED?

Learning to Learn: What do students say they need?

  • To know the aims of learning
  • To set learning goals
  • Improve our thinking process  
  • Skills to answer questions
  • Learn to apply in daily life  
  • To know more about real world situations
  • How to learn efficiently & effectively, i.e. less time to learn more, less effort to get more returns  
  • Learn the different ways for learning different subjects e.g. ICT, IT  

Learning to Learn: What do students say they need? (I)

  • My relatives ask me “What do you do with the subject you’re studying?”, I don’t know what to say, …… In fact, I am quite lost. (Lacking understanding of learning goals)
  • We are completely lacking thinking skills and don’t know how to transfer our learning.…I have no idea what has to be interpreted. … We learned a lot of things, but we don’t know how to apply these in work (Badly lacking thinking/cognitive skills)

Learning to Learn: What do students say they need? (II)

  • The most difficult is the project. We have to take care of everything from the beginning…. We have to form groups with someone we are not familiar with
  • The teaching of writing reports, we only know the heading, we do not know what should go under it. (Lacking skills for specific learning tasks)

Helping students learn to learn

  • What are the more efficient methods?

Learning to Learn

  • Stand alone course on learning skills
  • Learning to learn in the context of teaching, learning & assessment

Preference for learning to learn in-context of teaching, learning & assessment

  • The following all suggest that in-context L2L is preferred
  • Empirical evidence in the literature
  • PolyU experience
  • Students’ opinions

Empirical evidence in support of in-context learning-to-learn

  • A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of 51 learning skills interventions
  • … the typical study skills training package is indeed not so effective as metacognitive and contextualised intervention, but is significantly better than nothing -- clearly so in the case of younger students, and only marginally so in the case of college students.
  • (Hattie, Biggs and Purdie, 1996: 129)

PolyU experience

  • Stand-alone L2L efforts
  • Students found materials very useful, BUT seldom refer to them afterwards
  • In-context L2L support
    • Detailed feedback on assignments
  • Students reported to have more impact on their learning

Students’ words suggest that in-context L2L is more appropriate

  • Difficulties in learning perceived by students are mostly related to the programme or to the teaching / learning process
  • Students prefer L2L help
    • To be given in relation to a task
    • To be given when they need to work on the task

Helping Students Learn to Learn

  • What do your NEED?

Learning to Learn in-context of teaching, learning & assessment

  • How can the learning of learning skills be integrated with the learning of content knowledge?
  • What teaching & assessment methods foster the development of learning skills?
  • How to appropriately provide students with guidance on learning skills?
  • What knowledge and abilities do teachers require for the teaching of learning skills?

Learning to Learn

  • Developing students’ Cognitive, Motivational & Interpersonal strategies for learning

Participating departments

  • BSE
  • BUSS
  • COMP
  • ENGL
  • GEC
  • ITC
  • LSGI
  • ME
  • MFG
  • OR

3 handbooks for helping students learn to learn

  • Help in the cognitive domain For the Success of Your Study
  • Help in the motivational domain Getting the Most out of Your University: Becoming a Successful Learner and a Preferred Graduate
  • Help in the interpersonal domain Working Your Way through a Group Project

What do students say about “For the success of your study”?

  • This is the first booklet I’ve come across which is so systematically written to tell me what to do in my learning.
  • In the past, I tried my best to put in everything which I thought the teacher wanted. Now I realise that I need to select and organise.
  • Teachers asked me to elaborate but I didn’t know how to. Now the thinking tasks have inspired me what to do.
  • I started to realise why those classmates who explained their steps in calculation got better results than me. I used to focus on calculating the answer only.

What do students say about “Becoming a successful learner and a preferred graduate”?

  • I know what I should do and learn in these coming 3 years. And the most important is that I have to learn in a correct way in different learning activities.
  • I helps me understand deeply what I can do after my graduation and to realise what employers want employees to have.
  • University is a new life to me … This workshop can help us to cope with the new ways of learning.
  • It helps me to set a goal and to understand the things I should learn besides textbook knowledge.

What do students say about “Working your way through a group project”?

  • This clarifies what it means by a project
  • It is useful because I need the skills to handle our project. It really can help us solve the problems.
  • It can help me to increase my responsibility in a group.
  • I find the the part on communication and leadership skills useful.
  • I will try to have an evaluation for each section and make sure that each members can learn from each other and the process.

What do students say about a 2-day L2L programme?

  • the workshop raise my awareness of my thinking method and help me to think about how I should work with my group members in the coming projects.
  • I also enjoyed the Learning to learn workshop. Things I got in the workshop:
    • knew more friends from other groups. e.g. xxx
    • had deeper thinking in some aspects. e.g.learning approach, communication with other, work and organise project--improvement!!
    • And I still keep thinking them after the workshop.

Helping Students Learn to Learn – Simple Things that Teachers Can Do

  • Helping students learn to learn: What do your students need? What do you need?
  • Motivating students to learn by helping them see their learning goals
  • Helping students to achieve higher level learning outcomes
  • Helping students to get the most out of group project work

Approaches to Helping Students Learn

  • Study skills training approach
  • Learning strategies teaching approach
  • Student development approach
  • Contextual approach

Study skills training approach

  • mostly skills for “managing study to pass exam” -- peripheral to “understanding”
  • out-of-context of the subject
  • prescriptive skills

Learning Strategies Teaching

Learning strategies from Cognitive psychology

  • Rehearsal
  • Elaboration
  • Organisation
  • Comprehension monitoring
  • …...

Methods for teaching learning strategies

  • courses/workshops
  • integrating the teaching of learning strategies into regular teaching (Metacurriculum)

Student-Development Approaches

  • Developing self-awareness
  • Changing conceptions of learning

Rationales for Student-development approaches

  • Different techniques suit different people
  • Research has shown that “peripheral” skills are NOT related to learning outcomes
  • Many “study skills” advice are based on experiments absurdly unlike student learning

Developing self-awareness

  • stimulates thinking about own learning (the processes, decisions, purposes … that make up studying)
  • encourages sharing of experiences
  • facilitates development of an armoury of suitable approaches to be used in appropriate conditions

Contextual Approach

  • to
  • Improving Student Learning

Factors affecting student learning

  • Curriculum
  • Teaching method
  • Assessment method

Research findings on

  • Effectiveness of different approaches

Martin & Ramsden (1987)

  • Students’ comments
  • Learning outcomes

Students comments

Learning outcomes comparing participants with non-participants

Learning Outcomes Comparing participants in study skills programme with non-participants

  • Final exam -- No difference
  • Essay assignment -- No difference

Learning Outcomes Comparing participants in student development programme with non-participants

  • Final exam -- No difference
  • Essay assignment -- Participants performed significantly better than non-participants

Common topics in study skills training courses

    • Time organisation
    • Study management
    • Using text-books or reference materials efficiently
    • Revision techniques
    • Note taking
    • etc.

Looking at Approaches to Helping Students Learn

  • characteristics of the approach
  • examples
  • research findings on effectiveness

Helping students learn to learn

  • What What are their “learning to learn needs”?
  • When? When is the best time to provide help?
  • How? How best to help them?


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